Monday, May 11, 2009

Pool Outlook for Columbus

Continuing on the Pool Outlooks for teams now out of the playoffs, we come to Columbus, who enjoyed their best season-to-date, making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Blue Jackets have long since been toying with the idea of the playoffs, trying to put together a good enough team, much like little scientists play with their chemistry sets, trying to reenact the Big Bang. Finally, it looks like the team has gotten their explosion, although smaller than the big one, but still a good starting point for some tinkering this summer.

You don't have to go too far when you are looking for the top pool player for the Blue Jackets this season. Steve Mason came in relatively early to help start some games and what the team got in return was a goaltending dynamo that started his NHL career with a bunch of goose eggs. Mason finished the season with 33 wins and 10 shutouts for 86 pool points in the year, ranking him 16th among all players in that regard. This finish also had him ranked 5th among goalies in the season and he could very well be a first round pick in drafts for next year's fantasy pools. With Pascal Leclaire's ankle injury and Fredrik Norrena's inconsistency, it was a bit of a godsend that Mason came around to help out in goal.

The original franchise player for the Jackets, Rick Nash, was still around to help lead a new-looking group of forwards in scoring. Nash finished the year with 40 goals and 39 assists in 78 GP, falling short of his previous career high in goals, but still having a very productive year. New faces such as Kristian Huselius, Jason Williams, R.J. Umberger, Jakub Voracek, Derrick Brassard and a late Antoine Vermette, all brought something new to the table for Columbus and it really worked out well. Unfortunately for Brassard, he had his promising season cut shrot to 31 games, thanks to a horrible shoulder injury, but he should be on track for next season. It's good to see that the Jackets finally have some more pool-friendly forwards to look forward to in the pool next season.

More new faces on the blueline helped anchor the team at the back. Fedor Tyutin came into the fold in the off-season from the Rangers and led all Jackets defensemen in scoring with 34 points in 82 GP. Mike Commodore, Jan Hejda and Kris Russell all took steps forward for Columbus, all finishing with more than 20 points a piece in the season, but they didn't rank too well, which may keep them from being drafted this Fall in most fantasy pools, unless it's really deep. They were fortunate that those five stepped up, as Rostislav Klesla and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen both suffered injuries through the year, diminishing their stocks.

2010 Season Outlook
There is some positive news going towards the 2010 season, as the team has the bulk of their playoff team signed on for next season, not to mention some more help coming from the system. The Blue Jackets will be a much better team, especially if the injury bug can stay away from some of their key players, but that can usually be said about most teams.

Rick NashFedor TyutinSteve Mason
Kristian HuseliusMike Commodore
R.J. UmbergerJan Hejda
Antoine VermetteKris Russell
Jakub VoracekRostislav Klesla
Derrick Brassard
Fredrik Modin
Jason Chimera
Raffi Torres
Jared Boll
Andrew Murray
Nikita Filatov

With one key inclusion to the list above, Nikita Filatov, the Blue Jackets now have 18 players signed onto their theoretical active roster at an approximate cap hit of $42 million, which is far below what the cap ceiling will be next year. This means that the team can be in the market for a top defenseman that can help move the team further and faster.

Two defensemen head the top RFAs on the Blue Jackets agenda this summer, Mark Methot and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. Both players aren't big for fantasy points, but they do bring a certain solid base to the team. Neither player should be considered too difficult to sign.

As for UFAs, there is a few players that would be worth keeping around. Jason Williams, Manny Malhotra, Mike Peca and Wade Dubielewicz could all be considered worthy of a new deal, while Christian Backman and Chris Gratton were used sparingly in the latter part of the season and may be left out to the open market. With the way the team has their finances worked out for the coming season, they can be picky as to who they choose to keep on or let go.

Well, it should be safe to say now that Nikita Filatov is worthy of a spot on the forward lines for next season. He did have a quality finish to the year in the AHL and will have another summer under his belt to become bigger and stronger. The Jackets also have another Russian winger, Maxim Mayorov, who might make a charge for a spot as well, but may still fall short, in need of more seasoning in the AHL. The Jackets do have a pretty good looking stable of young talent, but it's still a little ways from paying off at the moment, but Filatov should be an immediate impact, likely worthy of 50 points next season.

The Jackets keep themselves in good standing with a low budget heading into the year, but a playmaking centre for Nash and a puck-moving defenseman could bring the team into some good company. Still, looking at the team they have from a fantasy perspective, they have plenty of talent to go around and they may see their players fill in some important gaps on fantasy teams this coming year and for good reason. Both Mason and Nash bring immediate impact points, while Voracek and Filatov will use their youthful talents to their advantage. Don't be afraid of Columbus anymore.

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